I Should Have Known

family of hardcore
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
It's been a long time since I hit a true hardcore show, and babies, I'm here to tell you that Hardcore Punk is alive, well, and still relevant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. Actually, this year's Keno-Core Punk Picnic was strategically inches over the state line in Illinois, due, I'm sure, in no small part to the fact that last year's picnic included a call to the cops. From everything I could tell, they overreacted. Overreacted -- as in the part in Kill Bill where Bill tells the Bride, "well, I overreacted."

No, this is a family of a scene, and I had been debating whether to bring the kids, and I learned quite early mine wouldn't be the only ones there. I should have known. Aside from the occassional falling down drunk or freaked out ODer you'll find at any festival, (even a republican nu-country fest), this was a perfectly safe place to bring the kids, pitch a tent, hang out and catch a slice of a thriving scene in a specific genre of music. I think, though, my kids wouldn't have necessraily enjoyed it. Stella's more of pop kid, Sammy would have gotten annoyed by the mosquitoes, so it worked out for the best.

Well, not completely safe. What with all the rain we've gotten, and being out in the middle of the country surrounded by tall grass and cornrows, and the sudden heat/humidity spike, we should have known that the mosquitoes, mostlty absent this summer, would be out with a venegeance. They -- not the bands or my exhaustion -- are the reason I only lasted about 2 hours. But within those two hours I caught 4 bands (two full, two half sets), that were a good sampling of the various flavors of hardcore.

I arrived to see the end of the set from the Yates Kids. Straight up punk, established mosh pit. But here's the thing: I'd written the last time I saw even a remote hardcore show (Rollins Band at the Rave) that I missed the good old days when the mosh pit was inhabited by basically rowdy folks looking to have a good time. In the 'old days,' I wrote nostalgically, whenever anybody fell down or looked to be in trouble, people would stop moshing, and help them up. And that's what was happening here! I got jostled a few times and people would even motion a sign to ask if I was OK (and I was). There was this one girl who seemed to be emceeing, and she'd found a way to sing with every band as well -- and when she fell, there was the crowd, ready to help her up. This girl has moxie, though. she needs her own band, if she doesn't already have one.
Following was Pistofficer, a well-named band. Plenty of anti-establishment fury here, great smart-alecky delivery. This is not a crowd of people who voted for George Bush (either of 'em), that's for sure. (I actually never heard of an entire genre of music devoted to trashing Bill Clinton or anybody like that.) This isn't a band that just spews out, though. Lots of thought went into these songs, good rhythm, and enough anthemic, often glam chord changes to ensure plenty of audience participation outside of the moshing. I liked them a lot -- again, not totally nihilistic, but still great hardcore. Plus, since I didn't get to see Beautiful Bert, at least I got to hear Pistofficer do a song about Beautiful Bert. Is this a great family of hardcore or what?

Offend Your Friends
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
My favorite out of the four I saw was next: Fond Du Lac's Offend Your Friends. Clearly they were the visitors, but eventually won over the crowd with their intelligent ska-hardcore fusion. (A few asked them, "Are you going to play any real ska?" but that would have probably been out of place.) The lead singers forehead was bleeding by the fourth or so song, a great little ditty called "Damn I Look Good" which wonderfully made fun of people whose priorities are messed up. They worked hard to get this crew going, but they delivered. I'd like to see them in a bar sometime, and catch more of their message. Best of all, it gave me a super warm fuzzy to see the younguns picking up the baton in this political day and age. These aren't messed up kids per se. They're angry, but intelligent people, perplexed at the general state of America, they don't understand why everybody else hasn't caught on, and they're ticked off, pissed off, like Pistofficer. But their violence is not taken out on each other, or other people. It's in the mosh pit, and that's a pretty safe place to take out your frustrations.
After Offend Your Friends was done, the organizers set up a station where anybody who felt out of place could get a quick mowhawk while the next band, Monster Bait set up. They were well-named, too. Their hardcore was a heavy, heavy monster sound, touch of Cookie Monster vocals, but very sludgy, almost metal core. They looked the part as well: long hair, older t-shirts, headbanging. I liked the change and I would have stayed for their entire set, but the sun was setting and those vicious mosquitoes were out. I coudn't take the bugs any longer, so I headed to my car, and drove north.

You wouldn't think anybody could say this after a hardcore show, but between the beautiful sunset I saw along I-94, the cute kids enjoying themselves, the kids helping each other out, the intelligent lyrics, the tight bands, the general peacefullness of it all, the self-policing against any knobs who did try to ruin it, I'll tell you, I had a major warm fuzzy. What a great scene, this little pocket of good ol' hardcore punk. They're not blazing any new ground here, but like many of the other genres I love, they don't have to. Any genre worth preserving -whether it's surf or americana or prog or hardcore, is worth preserving well, and the Keno-Core clan is doing just that. They've found a way around the local cops who don't get it, and I'd urge anybody interested in the Hardcore Scene, 2007, to take a trip to Kenosha sometime to check it out.

Just to de-aggro, and also because I promised Blaine Schultz I would finally check out one of his 37 bands, I dropped into the Circle A to catch the Riverwest Aces, a roots rock combo that serves up your Dylan, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, etc. etc. With Blaine on "assorted guitars" (including steel), Paul Setser on accordion (it works, trust me, it adds a beer hall flavour to these songs that renders them ageless), and Jeff Lauwasser on bass. I'm not familiar with the drummer and other guitarist, but maybe I am and I just didn't recognize them. Whatever, they were a good way to come down from two solid hours of aggro-rock and being sucked dry from mosquitoes. (Blaine noticed their ferociousness the prior evening at a gig the Aces had outdoors in Cedarburg; Circle A proprietor Warwick Seay told me he was at a picnic just at Doctors' Park and they were on the bloodhunt there, too. So it's not just me). The Aces were loose, fun, good. I should have known they would be.


raster said…
Awewome.... glad to know the scene is alive and well. Wish I could have made it. Any old-timer (meaning, 1980's) Keno-core folks there?

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